The blazing noonday sun beats down on my tanned shoulders as I roam peacefully through the cobblestone streets in the whitewashed city of Oia, nodding shyly at the merry faces of the villagers as the cool winds of the Aegean Sea waft a slightly salty stench into my nostrils. The narrow street is filled with bustling villagers, chatting away in the language I fail to comprehend. Tourists wander aimlessly, appearing out of place, dressed colorfully and all tanned a deep brown. Blue wooden gates and trellises surrounded by magenta-colored flowers lead onto stone patios overlooking the intense, surreal blue of the Aegean. Stray cats lurk in the obsolete alleys and snooze underneath the rare shadows of the houses and blue-capped churches. The small outline of a white ferry can be spotted on the mystical horizon, trailed by a stream of what appears to be white foam, simply a waved line that disappears into the sea beyond. I follow my mother who is dressed in a light-weight pink shirt and cargo shorts, sweat beads forming on my bandana-clad forehead. We stray off the main path and down steps leading to one of the many churches with a panoramic view of the eminent sea. In the distance to the left, I can see white outlines of buildings of Fira scattered and clumped on the vast caldera like a child’s drawing, and faintly I see the jagged slope of the switchback pathway from the port to the heart of the city. I snap a photograph on our small digital camera, squinting underneath my sunglasses. Turning the corner, we pass more tourists with their own cameras out and flashing. I inhale the familiar scent of gyros, the signature fast food of the Greeks. My mouth waters hungrily like a lion on the hunt for weak and oblivious prey. I am an eager student and newborn to this new world, yearning to soak in all of the wonder, and refusing to let the experience fade into oblivion. Sighing in awe, I let my eyes dart across the sea, the pearly blue sky and the pottery-like buildings standing on the omnipotent caldera, never wanting this experience to reach its end.
January 7, 2008